Watch Out for Fungal Meningitis

Fungal meningitis paves a long road to recovery. According to the CDC, this rare infection is the result of the spread of a fungus through blood to the spinal cord. People with weak immune systems, such as those suffering from AIDS or cancer, are at a higher risk of contracting the meningitis, but that doesn’t mean it is strictly limited to them.
Fungal meningitis has many forms, which is probably what makes it so scary for people. The most common is Cryptococcus, which is from soil tainted with bird or bat droppings. Histoplasma is another form found in places contaminated with bird and bat droppings. Blastomyces is found in soil with decaying organic matter, and finally Coccidiodes exists in soil usually in the Southwest United States and parts of Central and South America.
While these names are hard to pronounce, they are tremendously important to remember if you are a part of any of these environments. The cause of the infection is fungus that is spread to the spinal cord. Symptoms from fungal meningitis include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light, and altered mental status. Though this bacterial infection is not contagious, there have still been reports of outbreaks throughout the United States.
At ONE Brain and Spine Center, patients should report all symptoms to better diagnose and treat the condition. Residents of Newport Beach and Southern areas of California should check for fungal meningitis signs and stay away from any affected areas.
Other than contracting the infection from breathing it in, some medications cause it as well. These medications, usually ones that have side effects that weaken the immune system, may include; steroids, medicine given after an organ transplant, or anti-TNF medications (given for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis).  Premature babies are also at a higher risk of getting the infection. If the baby has a very low birth weight the chances of contracting fungal meningitis is especially higher.
Treatment is a very long process. Depending on the form on meningitis and how much it has affected your blood flow to your spine determines the longevity of your recovery. Usually, high dose antifungal medications are admitted to the patient through an IV at the hospital. Doctors and nurses will closely monitor the progress of clearing out all of the fungus. The best means for prevention is to avoid any environment that is likely to be filled with fungus.
When finding a new place to live, be educated on the surrounding environment. Speak with your doctor if you feel you have any of the symptoms that may be connected with fungal meningitis. As is for any other infection, it is better to catch it early and get treatment started right away.
ONE Brain & Spine Center is the premier spine and brain center in Irvine, California, offering minimally invasive spine surgeries and minimally invasive orthopedic surgeries. For more information or to make an appointment, please call (949) 383-4190.
The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

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